VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
3. Animal Intelligence and Sociality
Trewavas, Anthony. Green Plants as Intelligent Organisms. Trends in Plant Science. 10/9, 2005. Although the section is about an increasing sentience and cognition in fauna, this article finds that common definitions of intelligence such as problem solving and future prediction, along with similar cellular neural networks, can equally apply to flora, which seem somewhat akin to social insects.
Vonk, Jennifer and Todd Shackelford, eds. Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. International: Springer, 2019. A forthcoming edition which could bookend this field from Donald Griffin’s 1992 entry (our section image) when creatures with minds of their own were denied, to a deeply evident continuity from human acumen and personality which now spans the whole range of vertebrate and onto invertebrate species.
This encyclopedia, reflecting one of the fastest growing fields in evolutionary psychology, is a comprehensive examination of the key areas in animal cognition. It will serve as a complementary resource to the handbooks and journals that have emerged in the last decade on this topic, and will be a useful resource for student and researcher alike. With comprehensive coverage of this field, key concepts will be explored. These include social cognition, prey and predator detection, habitat selection, mating and parenting, learning and perception. Attention is also given to animal-human co-evolution and interaction, as well as metacognition and consciousness.
Waldau, Paul and Kimberly Patton, eds. A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. The quote is from the publisher’s website. A fine volume surely, but to me it still seemed like a collection of articles in need of an encompassing cosmology that can fully appreciate animals as personal co-participants.
It is the first comparative and interdisciplinary study of humans' conceptualization of animals in world religions. Cultural historian Thomas Berry eloquently insists that "the world is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects." Using the implications of this statement as a starting point, the contributors to this collection treat animals as subjects and consider how major religious traditions have incorporated them into their belief systems, myths, and rituals. Their findings offer profound insight into humans' relationships with animals and a deeper understanding of the social and ecological web in which we all live. Leading scholars from a wide range of disciplines and religious traditions, including Marc Bekoff (cognitive ethology), Wendy Doniger (study of myth), Peter Singer (animals and ethics), Jane Goodall (biology), Thomas Berry (history), John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker (religion) have supplied original material for this volume.
Wasserman, Edward and Thomas Zentall, eds. Comparative Cognition: Experimental Explorations of Animal Intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Now that real cognitive abilities, with human counterparts, are admitted throughout the animal kingdom, a burst of research has commenced which this volume conveys. These are collected in ten sections: Perception and Illusion, Attention and Search, Memory, Spatial Cognition, Timing and Counting, Conceptualization and Categorization, Pattern Learning, Tool Fabrication and Use, Problem Solving and Behavioral Flexibility, and Social Cognition. All of which implies a heretofore unnoticed evolutionary progression in brain, mind, and active awareness.
Wheeler, Wendy and Linda Williams. The Animals Turn. New Formations. No. 76, 2012. A dedicated issue by mostly woman scholars about a deep continuity with our co-evolutionary companions whom are graced by much more empathy, intelligence and awareness than a past reductive exclusion can give them credit for. A novel thesis is to appreciate the “endless spiral of semiosis” that informs and joins living entities. Typical luminous essays are: “Cosmopolis: The Kiss of Life” by Deborah Bird Rose, and Freya Mathews’ “The Anguish of Wildlife Ethics.”
Animal studies in the humanities raises a number of interesting questions. These are ethical questions perhaps most obviously, but also include the question of animal consciousness and mind, and of the animal mind in the human. ‘Mind’ might be a property of systems (vegetative, animal human) rather than of individual consciousness only. Indeed, the idea that anything like individual consciousness could exist in the absence of an entity’s embeddedness in biocybernetic systems (bodies and worlds and, hence, differences and information) seems extremely unlikely. Just as with new differences articulated in earlier explorations of difference, studies in human-animal relations opens up new, and perhaps urgent, avenues and modes of signification, thinking, doing, being and becoming.
White, Thomas I. Ethical Implications of Dolphin Intelligence: Dolphins as Nonhuman Persons. http://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2010/webprogram/Paper1489.html. An Abstract for a presentation at a 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Diego. As a follow up to his In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier (Blackwell, 2007) the Loyola Marymount University philosopher proposes that much like us, dolphins are self-conscious, unique individuals with a wide range of emotions, able to reflect upon and choose their actions. As a result, they ought to be regarded as “persons” just the same. By these lights, they merit much more regard than at present where many fishing and other invasions often decimate their nautical pods. And by extension one may add, it might be in order to recognize all the animals, who are often as sensitive, wise, and aware than we know or credit, indeed relative “persons” in their evolutionary form and turn, as altogether a single, long embryonic manifestation.
Whiten, Andrew. Cultural Evolution in Animals. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. Volume 50, 2019. The University of St. Andrews social psychologist contends that recent field and laboratory studies quite indicate that contrary to past beliefs, all manner of Metazoan creaturely groupings do indeed possess what could be seen as relative culture-like qualities.
Wirthin, Morgan, et al. Parrot Genomes and the Evolution of Heightened Longevity and Cognition. Current Biology. 28/1, 2018. As the abstract details, a 21 person team from the USA, Brazil, and Argentina including Claudio Mello achieved a novel genomic-based explanation of why this Psittacine order is more effectively intelligent than any other avian species. The findings merited a New York Times item The Genes That Make Parrots into the Humans of the Bird World by JoAnna Klein (Dec. 7, 2018).
Parrots are one of the most distinct and intriguing groups of birds, with highly expanded brains, well developed cognitive and vocal communication skills, and a long lifespan compared to other similar-sized birds. To address this question, we have generated a high-coverage, annotated assembly of the genome of the blue-fronted Amazona aestiva and carried out extensive comparative analyses with 30 other avian species, including 4 additional parrots. We identified several genomic features unique to parrots which support a range of cellular functions, including telomerase activity; DNA damage repair; control of cell proliferation, cancer, and immunity. Intriguingly, parrot-specific changes in conserved regulatory sequences were associated with genes that are linked to cognitive abilities and have undergone similar selection in the human lineage, suggesting convergent evolution. (Abstract)
Wuketits, Franz. Evolutionary Epistemology and Its Implications for Humankind. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990. In the 1980’s the endeavor that studied cognitive abilities in an evolutionary light was known by this name. Reviewed more in The Spiral of Science, it is noted here since by this view an emergent scale of animal intelligence gains veracity.
“…evolution is a universal cognition and learning process and there is a nested hierarchy of such processes from unicellular animals to humans.” (8)